Two

Max Herman 

This is a two-piece poem of the same situation from the viewpoint of a patient and his doctor.

There’s not a single feature of this wall I haven’t noticed:
the tattered, ashen square that frames a printout of a lotus,
the crack that creeps across the beige that seems to have a purpose,
finding respite in the corner, only to resurface.

Am I that tattered frame that’s slightly slanted to the right,
slowly losing color as the product of some fight?
I wonder how my pallor seems to those naive of my disease:
“There goes that walking skeleton, with thinning hair and shaking knees.”

But maybe this is not the case, and I’m the crack instead:
turning, twisting – pausing –yet still aiming straight ahead.
To those who watch with bated breath, I may seem weak and faded, yes,
but still I’m here, and still I push until I stop to lay and rest.

At first I never saw this wall, blinded by my hopelessness.
How could they expect a 23-year-old to cope with this?
I found it best to wear a mask that painted me an optimist,
stiffening my spine to fight the fact I felt the opposite.
At night I tucked my mask away and shed the plastic masquerade,
thinking of the relatives who shared my fate and passed away.
And soon the shroud could not withstand and quickly fell apart,
whittled by the worries of a lonely, frightened heart.

It’s said if you sink low enough, you’ll find an inner strength,
but what I found was not within but rather at arm’s length.
Once I learned to turn my gaze upon the face opposing me,
I found a source of strength and love, supporting me emotionally.
On days of pain, when I’m too weak to stand up on my own,
she tightly grabs my hand and says, “my love, you’re not alone.”
Her wary way of shyly smiling binds me to the ground,
it holds my weight despite the force that tries to blow me down.

There’s not a single feature of her face I do not know:
the rosy lips that sit beneath her tiny, button nose,
the eyes that change their bluish hue depending on her mood,
inviting me to open up and feel her warmth imbued.

 


 

There is a man who has a family, a house he calls a home,
a quaintly-colored castle with a leather, cushioned throne.
A man who saves the messages from others on his phone,
to smile at the ones he later visits on his own.

A scribble-ridden calendar, a life reduced to dates,
a page too marked with red and blue to warrant any space.
A man who understands that for every given case,
a piece of mind is set aside, solidified in place.

A gait without distraction, a walk that doesn’t sway,
a pace that never stops to pause or find a slight delay.
A man who stands to give support like lacquered, hardened clay,
molded to each patient, changing shape whichever way.

A book that’s filled with chicken scrawl, a recipe of thoughts,
analysis of findings in a well-constructed plot.
A man who pours his mind into a bounded, paper lot,
to clear the tangled web disease can weave and leave to rot.

A heart with many cabinets, a vessel full of drawers,
Layered with resolve, with love and hope laid at the core.
A man who fuels his fire from the ones who fight their war,
and uses it to give them every chance for something more.

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A Near Death Reminder

Johnathan Yao

Two days ago, I had just taken my final anatomy exam and finished a long two-month ordeal dissecting through and memorizing every component of the human body. At the beginning of the course, I had been excited, energized, honored to commence such a foundational experience in medical training. By the end, I was exhausted, wanting nothing more than just to sleep.

The very next day, we began physiology, with two weeks of cardiology separating us and the winter holidays. I woke up Saturday morning as I almost normally did, preparing myself for a full-day at the library studying. I’d watch the lecture, review the ebook, take notes, make flashcards, and memorize flashcards, an ordeal I had once taken pride in formulating the habit of doing. Now it just felt routine. In the afternoon, I packed up my books and prepared my drive to New Brunswick to attend our winter formal.

Just a few minutes into my drive, I made a right turn and my car suddenly lost control. It had been snowing the entire day. I came to realize that this road was covered in ice. My car hit one curb, ricocheted and went over another curb. I stared down my line of sight and saw before me trees within a ditch. I braced for the worst, but before I knew it, my car stopped its trajectory down towards certain damage. I had run through a bush and its branches had caught my right wheels, possibly damaging my vehicle but also possibly saving my life.

As I sat in my car, bewildered at what has just happened, a man with a snow shovel began walking towards me. He lived down the hill and had seen my accident. When I looked down the hill, where my car would have been had I not hit this bush, I saw his young children and wife playing in the snow. Would I have hit them? Before my conscience could more seriously wrestle with this tormenting thought, the man asked me if I was okay and began shoveling the snow beneath my tires. We worked together to clear as many branches as we could, but alas the car was still stuck. I called 911 and waited for the police to come.

While we waited for the police to come, the man never stopped trying to clear the branches stuck between my tires. Despite the wind and the cold, despite the time he could be spent playing with his children and wife during the first snow of the year, here was this human being, who had interrupted everything to jump into foray of danger to help a mere stranger get his car out of the snow. For him, the task of helping me was the most pressing thing on his mind. In my moments of fear, his presence had helped me feel calm, helped me feel safe. What motivated such compassion?

The police came, and the toll-truck would eventually come too. They asked the man to leave because he wasn’t part of the accident. I never got his name. But before he walked away, I looked at him one more time. Our eyes made contact, and in that moment I felt a feeling that had escaped me throughout my preclinical medical training thus far. Here was a fellow human being, with a kindness that I was the direct beneficiary of, a goodness that I could only conceptualize. I was happy to be alive, grateful to have shared this space with someone who had taught me more about strength and moral resolve than any molecular pathway, a greater understanding of what’s meaningful than any arterial landmark. I looked up again and he was gone. My car would be towed, my insurance rates would surely see a spike, and I would miss my winter formal. And yet, the snow that had seemed so frigid just moments ago, now suddenly seemed light and blissful, playing in the joyful wind.

Untitled

Kristina Kelvy

It’s all for her, isn’t it? Everything’s changed now and it has to be all for her. I was doing what I had to do, working all those hours to make the extra we’re going to need now. I was putting her first this entire time. Even through the pain, even through the days I could barely walk. It’s just a pulled muscle. A pulled muscle that’s kept me from standing next to my old lady and holding my baby girl the second she was born.

Doc said it’s not right. It’s not right that I’m in so much pain and I’m having trouble standing and walking. I can’t walk when I wake up most days. It’s takes me forever to get past the pain in my back. But I did what I had to do. I pushed it down, sucked it up and went to work. I have a kid. At 49. A little girl. And now that I see her, she’s gorgeous. I already loved her. I already pushed it all down in my head to get the extra money for her. But now she’s here and I can’t take it. She’s beautiful and I can barely hold her.

My old lady says I should go back to the doctor. Says I should just give in and go back and start fresh with someone new. But I’m stronger than this. I finished that State program. Out of those like 10% who make it, I did. I slipped once in 5 years and took care of it. I stood by this new thing, I tried. Not like there’s a lot of options for a street kid from Trenton. But I’m done with crack, I’ve got things going now. I’m a dad. At 49. I never thought it would happen. Too messed up and too stuck on those streets. But my lady, my baby girl, they’re everything now. Everything.

I’m getting them home. I’m getting them settled and set. And then I’m going back to the doc.

Hunting Dogs

Alexander Watson

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Woodcarving has been my method of stress relief for a few years, and overall, I think projects with timelines as long as these are particularly suited for med students for two main reasons. First, there are few careers that rely on an ability to tolerate delayed gratification to the extent that medicine demands. Having large chunks of the school year punctuated by the periodic completion of relatively difficult projects  makes some of the tougher blocks go faster. (more…)

Sleep

By Anup Regunathan

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

“How long has it been since she came in?”

“Come Friday, it should be about six months. Can’t say I’ve seen much of a response though. The family can’t let her go.”

“I’m sure it’s hard for the husband especially. Such a pity.” (more…)

When Students Become Teachers

Roxana Amirahmadi

During the final week of my final rotation in surgery, I was observing a vitrectomy and lens replacement surgery along with an M1 medical student who was spending her summer shadowing and doing research with one of the two ophthalmologists scrubbed into the particularly complex case. While we were watching the procedure from on the overhead screens, I began skimming through the patient’s chart to get a more detailed understanding of his medical background. I realized that the other student was curious about what I was reading, and I began explaining what to look for in a patient chart to get a better understanding of a patient’s background.

(more…)